6. The Eight Basic Types of Stress

Graf Stress Management’s signature tool is the Stress Evaluation, a question and answer procedure which identifies specific stresses causing problems for a client.

Questioning progresses from general (the type of stress) to specific (who, what, when, where, and why) until the precise stress is pinpointed.  Currently, eight types of stress are identified by Graf Stress Management:

Physical Stress includes physical traumas such as cuts, burns, sprains, broken bones, surgery, etc.  Our intelligence is capable of healing these quite well provided there are no additional stresses interfering with the healing.

Mental Stress is any activity that is excessively taxing mentally with a touch of performance anxiety thrown in, such as studying for the bar exam.  Normal school- and work-related thinking are generally not mental stresses because we expect them and are prepared in advance.

Emotional Stress involves concern for a loved one who is experiencing problems and whom we feel unable to help.  Interestingly, babies and young children are the most frequently seen sufferers of emotional stress, typically occurring when their parents aren’t dealing well with their own stress.  A sick baby or child can often be helped simply by assisting the parents with their stress.

Psychological Stress has to do with the way we feel about ourselves — our self-esteem. It can be about things we don’t like about ourselves or about problems in our relationships with other people.  Psychological stress causes more problems that all other types of stress combined.

Environmental Stress concerns our surroundings – where we live, work and spend most of our time.  This stress can be triggered by abrupt, unfavorable changes in our environment such as natural disasters.

Fear Stress comes from harboring fear.  Fear is a destructive emotion that curtails productive living and should be avoided at all costs.  Examples include fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of disease, fear of the dark and other phobias, as well as a generalized sense of helplessness.

Guilt Stress stems from living beneath our value standards.  Each of us has standards, some inborn and others acquired, that govern our performance in every aspect of our lives.  Some are less important (the way we load the dishwasher or fold our towels) while others are vital to our peace of mind (integrity, morality, parenting).  When we live up to our standards, we feel at peace with ourselves but when we fall short of them, we feel guilt stress, sometimes even to the point of punishing ourselves physically.

Reality Stress can occur when people fail to distinguish between reality and fantasy in their own lives.  A person may unwittingly identify with a fictional character (Harry Potter, Cinderella) and go through life responding as if they were that person at the expense of their own authentic growth and development. A variant is the person who imagines herself to be in a relationship with some (e.g., a celebrity or an internet “friend”) whom she doesn’t personally know at all.

After identifying which types of stress are troubling a client, the Stress Evaluation works to establish greater detail. Is the stress present, or when in the past? Does it involve a particular person? And so forth, until the stress is identified and resolved in a manner indicated by the client’s intelligence.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Richardson, in Rockville, Maryland, has been certified to practice Graf Stress Management since 1991. In addition, she holds a B.A. in Economics and an M.S. in Operations Research and formerly worked for the Congressional Budget Office doing econometric modeling.

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